Tuesday, May 13, 2014
TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A man claiming to be God rammed a truck through the front of a Baltimore-area television station Tuesday, leaving a gaping hole as reporters and other staff fled the building.
Police arrested a suspect about five hours after the incident, officials said at a news conference. The suspect was not injured but was taken for medical treatment, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
"It's very clear the subject is suffering from emotional or mental health issues," Police Chief James Johnson said. The identity of the 29-year-old man was not immediately disclosed.
Michael Marion was in his office off WMAR-TV's lobby when he heard someone rattling violently against the security door about 11:45 a.m. The man demanded to be let in, claiming "I am God, I am God," Marion said.
"I heard a series of crashes," Marion said. "The next thing, I looked in the lobby, and the only thing between truck and the lobby was the final door. I heard one final crash. I looked through the door, and by then the truck was pulling in the lobby."
The station believed everyone inside evacuated safely, News Director Kelly Groft told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
"Once the lobby started to collapse, we knew it was time to get out," Groft said. "He drove right through the doors and into the main area."
However, an employee remained in the basement. During WMAR-TV's evening newscast, Nic Hall said he didn't realize what had happened until he was contacted by a co-worker who was offsite.
"I was in the basement 3 ½ hours talking with police, letting them know the lay of the land," Hall said.
Hall said he'd only worked at the station for two weeks.
"It was interesting. I'll be here tomorrow."
A hole the size of several garage doors could be seen in the front of the two-story building, with a newsroom and studio on the first floor. About 120 people work there, according to station owner the E.W. Scripps Co.
The building sits on a busy street connecting the suburbs with Baltimore, near the city-county line. Next door, a school was locked down, but students — escorted by staff to their parents — left after 2:30 p.m.
Authorities said they were careful about releasing information during the incident because they knew the suspect was watching the news. He "was watching different channels, watching you report this story," Johnson told reporters. "We could view him watching TV."
Officials said officers used unspecified "technology" to locate the man on the second floor and used a flash bomb and a police dog to help arrest him. Johnson said the arrest was "without incident," but the suspect was holding a golf club at the time.
The truck belonged to a landscaping company and was stolen from a work site less than 5 miles from the scene, police said.
Police received a 911 call about 11:45 a.m. about a man banging on the door and trying to get inside, public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Within minutes, a call reported that a vehicle had come into the station.
Marion said the man banging on the security door wore an oxford shirt and had a closed satchel draped across his body. Marion and a co-worker moved into a lower portion of the building, where they found a fellow employee in an office who hadn't heard the crash. The group left through a back gate, Marion said.
"Everyone behaved really well," said Marion, the ABC affiliate's head of commercial production. "People of their own volition said, 'It's time to leave the building.' No one panicked."
Brian Kuebler, an investigative reporter, said in a phone interview that he heard a commotion and walked into the lobby in time to see the truck's last three rams.
"I never even saw him. I just saw the truck," Kuebler said. "That's when it started to get pretty real. This guy was intent on getting into the building. It was pretty frightening."
When police arrived, they moved everyone back, he said.
"We have the news to do and we're sitting in the parking lot," he said. "It's a little weird. I've never been the story in my career."